The new year has started and election season in Texas has (finally) come to an end. A lot of good candidates were voted into office; however, we, as students, failed to get two pro-student candidates elected: Dell Seiter and Jason Cornelius.
The story of what could have been is the unfortunate tale of this election cycle. For example, after the recount for City Council Place 1, it was confirmed that Cornelius lost to Bob Brick by a mere five votes. The total number of votes cast for the City Council Place 1 election was 30,785, not even half the 65,000 students enrolled at Texas A&M. If even one percent of those students voted (and let’s say half voted for Cornelius), it would have been more than enough to get him over the finish line. You know how I always talk about how every vote matters? This is what I’m talking about!
Cornelius, Class of 1999 and a former guard for A&M’s basketball team, is now a business leader who serves on the local Chamber of Commerce. When I interviewed him before the election, we discussed how the ROO housing policy is harmful to students and low-income families. He said he believes the ROO is “the biggest public issue,” and he is not in favor of the policy. He also told me that “students are a huge part of the economy” and are vital to the success of College Station’s economic and social development.
Councilman Brick — who has been interpreted by Brian Nakamura of the Bush School as caring more about “improving neighborhoods” — was heavily endorsed by the political action committee College Station Association of Neighborhoods, CSAN. He was one of the city councilors that voted in favor of the redefinition of family policy. This is an area the government has no business meddling in, since the city should not be telling you or me who our family is. This policy is harmful to students, as it is just a stepping stone to making the ROO come to fruition. Brick pushing for these damaging policies is proof he is no advocate for students.
Seiter is a retired Marine, has years of experience in the mortgage industry and has lived in College Station for over three decades. His reason for wanting a place on City Council was that he felt our city needs more “business-centric” elected officials. When I interviewed him before the election, he informed me that he also was not in favor of the proposed ROO.
But Harvell, who defeated Seiter in last November’s election, supports restrictive property policies. These changes include short-term rental oversight, which is seen by many property owners, such as the board of realtors, as an “infringement on property rights.” Like Brick, she also voted in favor of the harmful policy that expands the government’s definition of family but nevertheless hurts students. She is also one of the councilors who is a close ally with CSAN, the main driver of these anti-student housing policies.
Harvell has not been without controversy during her tenure in office. In one City Council meeting, she was seen shouting at Councilman John Crompton to “shut up” while he was in the middle of discussing an action item on the meeting agenda. Earlier this year, the Brazos Journal uncovered video footage in which Harvell auditioned for the reality TV show, “Worst Cooks in America,” using city equipment to film her audition tape, a clear violation of the Texas Municipal Code. It is true that Harvell planned on donating the money to Fun For All Playground should she have won the competition, (and that she later apologized). Still, I would rather have my city councilor working to better College Station in ways that do not involve using city resources to audition for a reality TV show.
Based on my interviews with Seiter and Cornelious and after having studied their policies, I am confident they would not have voted for the redefinition of family and would not vote in favor for the ROO when that time comes. Overall, I’m positive they would have been strong advocates for students, something that is lacking with the current council.
If we had all shown up and voted for Cornelius and Seiter we would have three council members who are pro-student instead of one. Moreover, we would have made history, as Cornelius would have been the first Black city councilor ever.
One of the biggest issues facing the city right now continues to be the ROO, a policy that will hurt students. Because Cornelius and Seiter both lost, the ROO could become a reality.
Looking forward, we must keep policies like the ROO — and which candidates support them — in mind when we go to cast our ballots.
As students, we are an integral part of the College Station community. It’s time to start acting like it.
Sam Somogye is a political science senior and columnist for The Battalion.